Kennewick native Taylor Vickerman grew up watching the Tri-City Americans, dreaming of the day he would pull on one of their red, white and blue jerseys.
Sunday, Vickerman was on the ice with the Vancouver Giants, facing the Americans at Toyota Center.
That was weird, Vickerman said after Tri-City handed Vancouver a 9-1 loss. I walked into the Red Lion (on Sunday), and I was wondering why I was staying at a hotel when Im back home. It was kind of strange warming up on the other side of the ice. Id warmed up on the (home) side my whole life in minor hockey.
Vickerman, 16, was passed over by the hometown team in the 2011 Western Hockey League bantam draft. The Giants picked up Vickerman in the sixth round. He was the first Tri-City player to be drafted since Richland native Seth Compton was taken in the fifth round by the Spokane Chiefs in 2003.
Hes been playing really well, Giants coach Don Hay said. Hes learning. He had a really good opportunity the first game he played to score. He didnt score, and hes been a little snakebitten since then.
But Hay had no qualms about putting the rookie out on the ice. He has played in 10 of Vancouvers 17 games this season.
He is a good-sized guy. He competes hard and skates well, Hay said. As he gets stronger, he will become a better player. Hes learning the game. Hes progressing along just fine.
The coaches that coached him here in Tri-City should be really proud of the effort they put in. They developed a really good young man on and off the ice. He is going to be a really strong player in the future.
Hay, one of the winningest coaches in the WHL, is a bit old school. Some players dont respond well to Hays style, but Vickerman has bought in, hook, line and sinker.
Last year, my coach was on me all the time, Vickerman said. He helped me realize that working hard is the way to win hockey games. Dons philosophy is you have to work harder than the other team. Its that plain and simple. I really love the way he coaches, and I think it adds to my game and gets me motivated.
Vickerman started at left wing against the Americans on Sunday. He did not have any points in the loss. In 10 games, Vickerman has no points, seven penalty minutes and a minus-5 rating.
You just have to keep working hard, throwing pucks on net and hope something goes in, Vickerman said. Goals come in bunches. Hopefully that happens soon. Its a grind. You have to come to every game, work hard and try to create opportunities for yourself and show the coaches what you have to offer.
The Giants, last in the Western Conference at 5-12-0-0, have scored 48 goals while allowing 71. They have made several trades over the last two weeks and have shuffled their lines more than a deck of cards at a Pinochle tournament.
This is a high-class organization, and Mr. (Scott) Bonner (general manager) knows what hes doing, and coach knows what hes doing, Vickerman said. Everyone just has to buy into the system, and well come out on top.
The confidence that good teams have is evident in the way they play and practice. We just have to keep coming out and putting out our best effort.
w Annie Fowler: 582-1574; firstname.lastname@example.org